Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The ISTE12 Conference - WOW!

I am writing this post as I sit and wait for the final keynote at the ISTE12 conference to begin. I'm surrounded by thousands of people as I am trying to reflect on what I experienced during the last 4 days. Thanks to a generous grant from Avichai, I had the opportunity to attend this amazing conference in San Diego. The ability to be part of this large gathering of educators made me feel like I am part of a massive club of committed educators ("techies" if you will) all of whom want to learn about education in the 21st century, technology integration and want to be informed of the best tools and ideas that exist out there. In preparing for this, I read the blogs, tweets and postings about ISTE. I tried to get ready by making sure I pack comfortable shoes (I am usually in high heels), charge all my idevices, fill out the forms, spend a week choosing and re-choosing sessions, print out my schedule, print labels with my information for all the prizes I thought i will be winning, take another look at my sessions and change some things around, sign up for some after hours parties and basically... make sure I can make the most out of the experience. But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. It truly was an overwhelming experience (in a good way), full of learning and intense jam-packed few days. I tried to do it all, which was really impossible... I attended session after session, running from one end of the convention centre to the other, I went through the exhibition, trying to have hands on experiences and listen to some information about products and services (and yes, I admit, I wanted some swag, things to take home, praying that I win a an iPad). I sparked conversations with complete strangers, I tried to learn from everyone and everything: poster sessions, other educators, keynote speakers, computers, tweets, random volunteers, and ofcourse- children. Each session I attended opened the door to new information, meeting new people, considering new options for improving teaching and engaging student, but most importantly - learning. I will be amiss if I don't mention the opportunity that I had to connect with the great group of Avichai educators who joined me on this journey. It was fantastic to meet them, talk to them and be able to reflect with them each evening on what we learned and discuss the application of this learning opportunity in our different Jewish day schools. I made some great friends, got to meet face to face some of the individual's I've been following on twitter, and catch up with some old friends as well. This alone - was an important and worth while experience. It was great to meet other Jewish day school educators who, like me, are so passionate about education and technology, who are committed to teaching and learning in today's digital age, and who want to make a difference in Jewish education. ISTE also helped me think about our learners: our students and the way we can reach them better, how we can get them to collaborate, how I and the teachers I work with can make a difference in their lives by implementing these fantastic ideas, tools and incredible learning opportunities. There is no arguing that digital age learning and teaching has changed and will continue to change. ISTE helped me See what digital learning can be all about. On one hand, the gurus in the field presented. People like Adam Bellow, Vicki Davis, Michael Fullan, Tony Vincent and other big names offered fascinating opportunities to learn about topics and issues close to my heart, as a technology coordinator and a teacher (first and foremost). They had much to say about education as a whole, and technology's role in it. Then there were sessions where everyday teachers, and even students (yes, students!) presented and showed us, the participants in the conference, what can be done. It was just inspiring to be part of that. ISTE's theme was "Expanding the horizons" and that they really did. New possibilities were introduced, sites, apps, social media, products and so much more are the things I'm coming home with. I'm committed to share this learning, whether it is by including it in the posts I'll be writing, I'll be presenting it in the PD I'll be offering, or by implementing it by introducing it in our PLCs throughout the upcoming year. Thank you Avichai for your generosity and for this amazing opportunity, for your hospitality and for all the excitement I feel as I think of what I'm coming home with and where I can take this knowledge from here. I can't wait to impart this knowledge! Avital Aharon J.S and Technology Coordinator Associated Hebrew Schools Thornhill, Ontario, Canada

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